Annoyed Librarian
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Libraries and Riots

A few weeks ago, an AL post commented on controversy in California regarding whether or not librarians were teachers. There were questions from the powers that be about whether “teacher-librarians” were really teachers at all, since they don’t really do the same thing teachers do.

The angriest comments were from someone who insisted that the librarians really were teachers because their jobs were defined as being teachers, or something like that, because everyone knows you can just name something and the naming magically makes it so, like “censorship” and “privatization.”

It seems school librarians in Atlanta are less disingenuous, or at least some of them are. In reaction to the test-cheating scandal down there in Hotlanta, some teachers are being removed, and they’re being replaced by school librarians, who, as in California, are “certified” to teach.

Of course we all know that being certified to do something doesn’t mean you can actually do it. leading some librarians to complain that they’re not really teachers anymore.

“I haven’t taught elementary level education in 21 plus years,” one employee wrote in an email.

“I’m not prepared to teach the very children who have been cheated by the cheating scandal,” the employee wrote.

Someone should scold that school librarian for showing such a lack of solidarity with his or her Californian brethren!

I don’t really have anyplace to go with that one; I just thought it was funny.

Less funny is UK Prime Minister David Cameron considering whether to ban Twitter, at least during emergencies. During August, I’m usually busy sailing around the Caribbean on the Library Journal yacht with the other LJ bloggers, blithely ignoring the news, but I understand there have been some riots in London.

Since the rioters have mostly been brown people and foreigners, I guess Cameron thinks it’s okay to act like a Middle East dictatorship, because groups of brown people and foreigners rioting against injustice and oppression – real or perceived – are pretty much the same regardless of country, right?

Maybe Cameron can just take a cue from Bashar Assad, send some tanks into Tottenham, and start blasting away.

But really all that needs to happen is for the UK to stop closing so many of its libraries, or so one columnist argues.

Prevention always costs less than cure. The prospect of friendly, busy branch libraries diverting even a few of the disaffected or the dispossessed from crime and despair sounds like sheer fantasy. But every little helps, as the slogan on the looted supermarket has it.

Besides, non-rioters in urban battle zones – the peaceful 99.5 per cent, in other words – need reward and reassurance now. Part of the British crisis of authority stems from a shortage of safe public space that has nothing to do with the consumption of goods or the enforcement of control. That’s why so many people defend even small, low-tech hospitals. The portals of every library lead into another such place. Is this pitiably naïve? Then find us a better door to open.

Aww, that’s sweet. I haven’t seen this much faith in the power of libraries to stop riots since I don’t remember when.

Does it seem pitiably naive? I’m not sure. A library every couple of blocks dispensing free popular entertainment and Internet services could do a lot to quell the masses. Add in some drugs and alcohol, and maybe a good dance band, and the effect would be complete. The disaffected and dispossessed probably just need some DVDs and Internet porn to keep them from rioting.

Why not? It works in America. America doesn’t have that sort of rioting and looting, at least according to this article. Here the disaffected and dispossessed are too busy amusing themselves to death or selling drugs to riot.

Or are they? Recently, the City of Brotherly Love has been plagued by flash mobs, only these aren’t the sort of flash mobs that break out in singing and dancing that some misguided Americans like to romanticize. These flash mobs assemble and beat people.

The mayor of Philadelphia has instituted a curfew, because nothing terrifies a group of angry teenagers with nothing to lose more than a curfew! Maybe he could try blocking Twitter as well.

I pointed out a few months ago that libraries don’t seem to be helping the poor in Philadelphia. And it’s curious that Philadelphia, like London, has threatened from time to time to close numerous of its branch libraries.

Maybe that British columnist is on to something. Maybe it’s the threat of losing libraries that sends all these poor, disaffected young people into the streets beating and looting. They probably don’t use the libraries they have, but neither do most people. However, people like the idea of libraries. Maybe the rioters do, too.

So maybe he’s right. Libraries might not stop the rioters, but you never know. Like a hot cup of tea in the middle of a battlefield, it might not help much, but it couldn’t hurt. It seems like a good enough reason as any to fund libraries.

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Comments

  1. Jen says:

    To comment on the first half of the post: I’m a school librarian in NJ, and I consider myself just as much a teacher as any other teacher in my school. I write lesson plans, I adhere to state standards, I hold certifications as both an “Elementary Teacher” and “School Library Media Specialist,” I lead groups of children in learning activities – I’d call that teaching. Even though I don’t have a traditional classroom or teach math and science, I’m still a teacher. I think the question of whether or not we’re teachers or librarians comes from personal experience. I started out as a teacher with a BA in Elementary Ed and after a few dissatisfying years in the classroom, got a masters in Library and Info Science and now consider myself a teacher-librarian. I have colleagues who started as a librarian (public, law, corporate) and eventually made the switch to public schools, and they see themselves more as strict librarians and not teachers. It’s all in the mindset.

  2. Spencer says:

    So, school librarians are teachers when their jobs are on the line- and they’re not when other teacher’s jobs are on the line?

    Sounds like some union work to me.

  3. Fletcher says:

    The people rioting in the UK are not “mostly brown people and foreigners”. They’re mostly white native born citizens. And they’re not rioting against anything. They’re rioting because they want an excuse to steal TVs.

    • opal casey says:

      Thank you Fletcher. What a condescending, paternalistic statement from AL. He needs to stay on his yacht. When do we start asking people to take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming some nebulous power that needs to save them. Why are they destroying the shops? They are not “the man” keeping them down.

    • Zed says:

      Well, I don’t know about “not rioting against anything” – the riots started because the police shot a man without provocation, and because people came together to protest in his name. The violence started as a result of rumors that the police had beaten a sixteen year old girl who threw a rock at them. Sure, people got involved for a number of reasons after that, but I don’t think it helps to deny that these riots reflect a lot of pent-up dissatisfaction with the police, the government, and socioeconomic and race issues in general.

  4. Zed says:

    The mayor of Philadelphia did not “institute” a curfew. I have seen a lot of news sites report this, and it’s not true. Philadelphia already had a curfew. The mayor made the curfew earlier in certain parts of the city (even though the “flash mobs” have mostly been occurring during daylight hours).